Manchester City will hope to close down the gap between them and the top of the Premier League table as they face fellow title hopefuls Liverpool at Etihad on Sunday.
Far from ideal; is what everyone would call Manchester City’s start to the 2020/21 Premier League campaign. Although Pep Guardiola has overseen just a single loss in the league this season, he would be frustrated with the squad’s inability to be ruthless against weaker opposition thus far.
On the other hand, Liverpool have not had a rosy start to their defence but for contrasting reasons. The Reds managed to notch up close wins against troubling and tricky opposition. However, injuries to key players have threatened to derail their title defence, with Jurgen Klopp also dealing with inconsistency in attack.
The two teams who are favourites to be up there vying for the title have struggled for different reasons this season so far. This match could lay down the marker and provide the impetus to spur on and go on a positive run.
The last time Manchester City welcomed Liverpool at Etihad in the Premier League, it was the home side who completed a 4-0 rout, albeit after the Reds had already secured a historic league title. Let us take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Benjamin Mendy and Fernandinho are both injured and won’t be able to make it to the starting eleven. Sergio Aguero was in a race to make it in time but will unlikely feature against Liverpool.
Pep Guardiola will likely opt for a more defensive choice at the back, which means Nathan Ake should be preferred over Joao Cancelo on the left. Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte are almost certainly going to be the central defenders, with the duo having not played during the midweek. Kyle Walker is an automatic choice for the right side, with Ederson in goal.
In midfield, Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne are certainties to start, with the last place a toss-up between Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden. The latter could be preferred due to his work as an impact substitute of late. Riyad Mahrez is unlikely to feature in Manchester City’s attack due to tactical reasons, having not played against Liverpool in the Premier League last season as well.
Ferran Torres should shift from playing a False Nine to the right-wing, with Raheem Sterling deployed on the left. Gabriel Jesus will likely start, with Liam Delap an option off the bench should the Brazilian fail to perform up to the standard.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Ake; De Bruyne, Rodri, Foden; Torres, Jesus, Sterling
Jurgen Klopp has a long list of absentees in central defence, with Virgil van Dijk out for a long time, makeshift option Fabinho out as well while Joel Matip is also struggling to gain full fitness.
Ideally, Matip should start if fit. If however, Matip is unavailable, Rhys Williams will line up alongside Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson in defence, with Alisson in goal.
The 4-2-3-1 setup has worked well so far for Liverpool and Klopp should opt for the same to provide more defensive cover. Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum are sure starters as the double pivot.
With Thiago not fully fit, The 4-2-3-1 setup will allow Klopp to retain Firmino, albeit in the number 10 role while also bringing in the in-form Diogo Jota as the forward, with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah as the other attackers in the lineup.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Rhys Williams, Gomez, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane; Jota
1. Manchester City to win @ 1.95
1. Raheem Sterling to score 2 or more @ 5.50
1. Liverpool have only won one of their three away Premier League games so far this season.
2. Liverpool have conceded 4 or more goals at Manchester City on two of their last three league visits at the Etihad.
3. Manchester City have won 9 of their last 10 Premier League matches against Liverpool.
4. Liverpool have conceded 15 goals in 7 Premier League games this season so far, the most in the same number of games in any league campaign since 1964/65. (Source: BBC)
5. Diogo Jota has scored 7 goals in 392 minutes of football for Liverpool in the Premier League and Champions League combined.
Player to Watch
No other player has been as exciting to watch. His performances have driven fans to call for Roberto Firmino being dropped in favour of the summer arrival. The Portuguese international has been on fire for his country as well and Liverpool might have signed an actual finisher, which would elevate Liverpool’s attack.
Jurgen Klopp’s 4-2-3-1 might ensure the best of both worlds, with Liverpool now equipped with Roberto Firmino’s playmaking ability and Diogo Jota’s finishing skill. With the rest of the Liverpool attack not really hitting top gear, Diogo Jota will be influential on Sunday.
Manchester City 1-0 Liverpool
Naturally, Manchester City and Liverpool are both great attacking units, which means a high-scoring affair is expected at the Etihad on Sunday. However, both teams would be wary of the result having a greater impact than just winning or losing three points on the day.
We expect a narrow Manchester City win, with Liverpool likely to get boxed out with defensive pressure. The scoreline is a pure gut feeling on the basis of how their recent Etihad meetings have gone. Regardless of the potential scoreline gaffe, Manchester City should come out on top to make some ground over the other title hopefuls.